ANNAPOLIS – House Speaker Casper Taylor promised Montgomery County lawmakers in January they would carry home so much state funding this year they would get hernias.
Appearing together just 13 hours after the close of the 1998 General Assembly session, “Team Montgomery” applauded Taylor and others Tuesday for helping make that a reality.
County lawmakers listed increased funding for mass transit, arts centers, Silver Spring redevelopment and public school construction among their proudest accomplishments.
“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” said Del. Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, at Tuesday’s back-slapping news conference of county and state officials.
County Executive Douglas Duncan said the county has received a 41 percent increase in direct operating aid and well over $200 million for capital projects from the state over the past four years.
“We entered the session with a clear set of goals, we worked hard to achieve them, and in the end we were successful because our arguments had merit and our hard work paid off,” Duncan said.
County officials expect to get at least $50 million of the $222 million budgeted for public school construction when the Board of Public Works makes its decision on school funding in two weeks.
Del. Sharon Grosfeld, D-Montgomery, said she is “overjoyed and overwhelmed by the ability we are now going to have” to reduce class sizes through new and refurbished schools.
Lawmakers also congratulated themselves by noting the $10 million they won for the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring; $1.7 million for the Strathmore Hall Performing Arts Complex, a planned concert hall and music education facility in North Bethesda; nearly $2 million for the Olney Theater; and $700,000 for the Germantown Cultural Arts Center.
Mass transit funding this year includes $9 million for a new 1,000-car parking garage for the Shady Grove Metrorail Station and legislation that will save the county about $3.2 million annually in Metrorail debt service and equipment costs.
Despite its relative wealth, Montgomery County is also expected to benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expands the number of families eligible for Medicaid coverage. Of the 60,000 families statewide who will be added to the Medicaid rolls, more than 12,000 live in Montgomery County.
“This delegation was out front on this to make sure it got through,” said Gov. Parris Glendening of the expanded Medicaid coverage.
County lawmakers were also busy celebrating their own victories Tuesday.
Grosfeld pointed to legislation that will let battered women file for divorce immediately, rather than having to wait a year. The current year wait between separating and filing for divorce “is the most lethal and so we expect that we’ll have a decrease in domestic homicides in coming years,” she said.
Jennie Forehand, D-Montgomery, praised a bill that will make it easier to prosecute child abusers by allowing formerly inadmissable court testimony from teachers, school counselors and unlicensed social workers who have talked to abused children.
Adrienne Mandel, D-Montgomery, cited legislation that is expected to help about 5,300 developmentally disabled people statewide. The five-year, $68.4 million initiative will help provide daycare, emergency response and respite care for aging parents of disabled children.
“These people have been waiting and waiting,” said Mandel, flipping through a stack of constituent letters asking for assistance.
“It just feels so great that the most vulnerable will be served appropriately” she said.